Mumbai: Virdhawal Khade missed the Asian Games medal by a whisker but the swimmer from Kolhapur has made significant progress since making a grand comeback last year. Still regarded as one of the best swimmers in the country, who burst into the scene after he qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a 16-year-old.
However, he missed the following Olympic Games in London and Rio and the 2014 Commonwealth and the Asian Games. A dreadful knee injury and lack of training facilities in his posting area in Kolhapur almost made him settle in his government job before started training again last October after being posted in Mumbai as Tehsildar. He had lost already five years of his prime.
Though the 27-year-old Speedo athlete is determined to qualify for Tokyo Olympics and do well there but he has limited facilities. He isn’t in government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and can’t train abroad on his own. He has to train in Mumbai and ensure he attends his work also. Earlier he had a spell of training in Bengaluru but job constraints brought him back. “I can’t train abroad as I am not in TOPS scheme. I was training in Bengaluru but I can’t take long leaves regularly from my job so I am training at Khar Gymkhana (a private club) in Mumbai,” he said.
He missed the bronze by one hundredth of a second in 50m freestyle at the 18th Asian Games and is now aiming to do well in the World Championships next year to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“The results could have been better at the Asian Games if I had not taken long break. I have good timing to go for the World Championships and need to train better. They have included two young guys and I am hopeful Sandeep Sejwal and me are also included to help us prepare better. I have been writing to them since the Commonwealth Games and hopefully they will consider now,” said Khade, who had the 50m butterfly bronze at the 2010 Asiad.
Both swimmers are still regarded as best medal hopes for India at the premier swimming events. Khade who created national records in freestyle and butterfly, 100m and 50m events is still holding records and breaking a few. Khade is satisfied with the way he is progressing but wants to work on his starts. “I want to improve my starts. American swimmers are regarded fastest in starts I want to start like them,” he added.